The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 set out requirements to ensure equipment which is provided for use at work is suitably selected and safe to use, including maintenance, inspection, information, instruction, and training, safety markings, and the environment in which the equipment is used.
What equipment does PUWER actually apply to?
The scope of ‘work equipment’ is wide because the regulations apply to a range of workplaces, from offices, factories, and construction sites, through to education settings and restaurants.
When deciding what work equipment needs attention, consider what risks your equipment presents, and if the equipment fails, would a person be exposed to significant risk?
In many workplaces, equipment could include power tools, pallet and forklift trucks, ladders and access equipment, and commercial catering and cleaning equipment.
The regulations place duties on employers, self-employed people, and people who have control of work equipment. A person who has control of work equipment would include an employer who provides work equipment to a non-employee, for example if an employer allows a catering contractor to use the employer’s own commercial cooking equipment or permits a cleaning contractor to use the employer’s window cleaning cradle.
When thinking about selecting new work equipment, a risk assessment can help you consider key factors such as:
Ergonomics, such as the position, layout and labelling of operator controls so users do not have to overreach or exert excessive force to use the equipment, and that controls are laid out logically.
The environment, including if there is sufficient space to accommodate the equipment and users, if there is sufficient ventilation or extraction for gases or vapours produced, and if lighting is sufficient to allow safe use, cleaning, and maintenance.
Impacts to users and other people, such as noise, vibration or heat that might be generated by work equipment.
Safety features, including that the equipment is provided with necessary warnings, emergency stop controls, and guarding of dangerous parts.
A multi-site client of ours got in touch; they had a vast amount of higher risk work equipment which presented specific risks, including commercial catering equipment, window cleaning cradles, pallet trucks, and mobile elevated working platforms (MEWPS). They wanted the equipment assessed to check they were managing risk.
Recognising the challenge of assessing over 200 pieces of equipment, we created a digital assessment form which we could use in real time while on-site to record our visual inspections of the equipment, the environment, and to confirm there were suitable measures in place for maintenance, inspection, and training of users. We also designed the form so photographs could be attached to evidence our findings, both good and bad!
Throughout the project we also identified equipment which had been moved and even equipment our client didn’t know they had. Our simple online form meant that we could quickly carry out assessments of new equipment we found without adding lots of additional time to the project and improved their asset register and management of equipment.
Noise at work can and does cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. Awareness of this condition is growing fast, as shown by the significant rise in...
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